Another teen claims isolation, educational failures at Angola youth lockup

Another teen claims isolation, educational failures at Angola youth lockup
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A 16-year-old formerly held at a juvenile facility at Louisiana State Penitentiary says he was confined to his room for two days, unable to speak to anyone and only allowed to leave to shower, new court filings say. 

The teen, identified in a court document as Frank F., is seeking to join an ongoing lawsuit filed last summer against Gov. John Bel Edwards and the Office of Juvenile Justice over their decision to house youth labeled particularly problematic in a building within the gates of Angola, the maxium-security adult prison in West Feliciana. 

OJJ officials have described the controversial lockup as a last-ditch solution for a system in need of an overhaul. The agency has faced mounting pressure in recent years to answer for what advocates, former officials and state lawmakers describe as its deepening failure to maintain safety and some services required by law at its youth prisons.

Amid several high-profile escapes and riots at several OJJ secure care facilities last year, officials announced the plan to house certain youths in a new facility at Angola. They said it was a temporary move that was neccessary to stabilize the system until a more permanent facility could be finished. 

Still, the move drew strong criticism from youth advocates and national juvenile justice organizations.

In September, the original plaintiffs tried to get an injunction blocking the teens’ move to Angola while the lawsuit plays out in court. But U.S. District Court Chief Judge Shelly Dick ultimately denied the request; she called the plan “disturbing” and “untenable,” but said it did not appear to violate federal law.

An OJJ spokesperson did not immediately return a request for comment.

There have been relatively few windows into what the experience at the prison has been like for the youths incarcerated there since transfers began last fall.

In January, two teens who sought to join the lawsuit said in court documents that youth there have been pepper sprayed, held in solitary confinement for hours with breaks only for showers and regularly had aggressive run-ins with Department of Corrections guards. 

Attorneys for the plaintiffs are seeking to file an amended complaint including Frank and the other two teens who want to join the ongoing lawsuit, court filings from last Thursday show.

Frank, who was previously held at Angola between March 8 and on or about March 28, is currently housed at a different juvenile facility.

According to the filings, Frank has an individualized education program and is supposed to receive certain accommodations, such as materials being read aloud to him, which were not provided at the Angola facility. He also did not receive group therapy, despite previously participating in such a program while at another secure care facility for an hour each day, the filings say.

Echoing the other teen accounts of their time at Angola, Frank said in the filings he spent most of his time alone in his cell between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. every day.

At one point, he “spent two whole days in his cell alone and unable to talk to anyone. He was only permitted to leave his cell to shower,” the court filings say.

He also said he was limited to two video visits per week and had no visits from family.

“This is the worst OJJ facility I have been in,” Frank wrote. “I have never been allowed to go outside for recreation on the weekends.”

Frank’s mother said in the court document that she worried about both her son’s mental and physical health while at the secure care facility. He has sickle cell anemia and was, at one point, hospitalized while at Angola for the condition – but his mother was not notified until after he left the hospital, the filings say.

“We look forward to conducting discovery to prepare for our push to close Angola for good for children,” said David Utter, an attorney for the plaintiffs. “It’s no place for kids. They should have never been there. We look forward to a trial to show the court they should have never been there.”

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About Mary Weyand 11096 Articles
Mary founded Scoop Tour with an aim to bring relevant and unaltered news to the general public with a specific view point for each story catered by the team. She is a proficient journalist who holds a reputable portfolio with proficiency in content analysis and research. With ample knowledge about the Automobile industry, she also contributes her knowledge for the Automobile section of the website.

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